What was nearly a tragic accident involving a McMinn County teenager and a county deputy is now the focus of a regional campaign to reduce texting and driving. On June 4, 2014, Deputy Randy Gabrel was on his way home from work when a car drifted across the centerline and struck his car head on.
The driver of the oncoming car was Nick Austin, a 17-year-old student, on his way to a football workout. Both of the drivers were injured in the crash and were taken to area hospitals. Upon investigation, authorities uncovered that Austin had been texting just prior to the crash.
According to McMinn Sheriff Joe Guy, while the accident could have been a tragedy, the situation instead turned positive. After Austin reached out to Deputy Gabrel to apologize and take full responsibility for the accident, the two made peace and Deputy Gabrel began thinking about texting while driving.
Deputy Gabrel and Austin agreed to use the crash and work together with the help of L&M Motors (a local Dodge dealership) to spread the word about the dangers of texting while driving. L&M Motors has agreed to display Deputy Gabrel’s wrecked patrol car (a Dodge Charger) on one of its lots, along with a “Don’t Text and Drive” banner.
Sheriff Guy is also a big promoter of the campaign. By displaying the wreckage of Deputy Gabrel’s patrol car, the community can physically see the outcome of what distracted driving or texting while driving looks like—and how quickly the entire community can be affected.
L&M Motors plans to display Deputy Gabrel’s crashed patrol car for public viewing for the next week. However, that will not be the end of the campaign. When the school year begins, both wrecked vehicles will be placed on a truck and trailer and displayed at the McMinn County Justice Center. Afterwards, the cars will travel to area schools and public events—along with Deputy Gabrel and Austin who will provide personal testimonies on how the crash has affected their lives.
Any schools, organizations or public events that are interested in participating can contact the McMinn County Sheriff’s Office at 423-745-5620, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a program or to display the crashed vehicles.
Other than having a personal connection with dangers of texting while driving, the campaign is in response to the number of accidents caused in Tennessee by texting while driving or distracted driving. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, there were nearly 140 crashes in McMinn County alone caused by distracted driving in 2013.
If you have been injured in an accident and believe texting while driving or distracted driving is to blame, please schedule a free consultation with Tennessee car accident attorneys at Gilreath & Associates today. In addition, you can also browse our blog and knowledge center, which includes an article outlining your legal rights in a distracted driving accident, and much more.